Michael Bowman, 31
Builds microturbines that could become the power plant of choice in many settings
Michael Bowman is producing prototype turbines just 1.5 meters tall and two meters long that could provide everything from backup power in the office to primary power for remote area of developing countries. The natural-gas microturbine Bowman designed uses a proprietary combustion chamber and electronics to produce 175 kilowatts- enough to supply a small hospital, or about 20 houses. General Electric claims the turbine is more efficient and less polluting than anything already on the market and estimates that it will be commercially available in 2006. Bowman, a mechanical engineer and manager of GE’s energy systems laboratory, says, “We leveraged a lot of GE technology on larger machines to develop a low-cost solution.” And that approach is consisten with his career ambitions: to adapt specialized technologies for massive markets. Bowman’s previous GE designs include a motorized turbocharger that reduces engine startup emissions in diesel locomotives and trucks. His sights are now on an even bigger prize: making hydrogen power practical. Bowman leads 10 researchers who are exploring ways to yse wins and geothermal systems to drive electrolysis, which extracts hydrogen from water. “We have a very novel idea in the process of patenting,” he says, which he hopes could help wean the world off fossil fuels.